Why Do Bad Things Happen? updated for atheists (sort of)
February 11, 2008
When Moristotle, a newly minted atheist whose perspectives I nonetheless value, read my post Why Bad Things Happen, he almost threw up. He declared it a "fantasy," aspects of which were "utterly repulsive," and the rest "not only not nice at all, nor even adolescent, but simply infantile." Now if we could only get this fellow to say what he really thinks and stop pussyfooting so as to spare someone's feelings, he might amount to something!
Still, I take his concerns to heart. It's not pleasant throwing up because.....well, it just isn't. We all know it. Is there a way to write essentially the same thing in a way that those he represents will find more palatable? After all, he declared a related post of mine "profound." True, he was just being nice, he later pointed out, but at least there was no gag reflex, or at least he overcame it. Bear in mind that I'm under no illusions of "changing" him, nor he I. We trade remarks regularly and use each other's work to refine our respective viewpoints and reasoning skills. You can't do that with most internet atheists (in contrast to the more civil non-evangelist kind). They are such snarling pit bulls and do nothing but hurl insults. You just can't converse with them.
It may not be possible to make this stuff more palatable for a certain type of person. Any discussion of why God tolerates evil must necessarily link to Adam and Eve, and link to them rather substantially. They simply are that key of a building block. And so you have to overcome the "we are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. Who's next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?" syndrome. This is not gonna be easy.
Let's start with some common ground, just like Paul did at the Areopagus. Moristotle recently trotted out a Greek named Diagoras, who is apparently the world's first recorded atheist. A little quibbling over that in our preceding posts, but I'll concede the point.
Okay. Here goes. Wish me luck.
Was Diagoras the world’s first atheist? He‘s credited that way. Read up on him and you’ll see he is remembered as Diagoras the Atheist. Isn’t he the fellow who used a wooden statue of Hercules as fuel to cook his turnips? ……. if Hercules didn’t like it….well, let him do something about it. And how did Diagoras end up an athiest? Wikipedia tells us (2-4-08) "He became an atheist after an [unspecified] incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods"
Why wasn't it punished? Why didn't God fix it? He’s God, after all. Isn’t he supposed to be all-powerful? We hear this all the time from atheists, agnostics and even believers. Why didn’t he solve Diagoras’s problem and stop the man from going atheist?
It’s because he’d never be able to do anything else. He’d be sticking band-aid after band-aid after never-ending band-aid on a system of things that is inherently unjust, even designedly so. Instead, in keeping with his original purpose, he purposes to replace this system of things with one of his own design. Injustice in that system of things will be a memory only.
After all, what is the injustice that caused Diagoras such soul-searching? Only the one that touched him personally! Had he not witnessed hundreds of injustices in his lifetime? To say nothing of ones his society was built upon. We positively slobber over Greeks as cradle of wisdom, birthplace of democracy, mecca of free thinkers, and so forth, yet they enjoyed their privileged status only on the backs of others. That society embraced slavery, for instance, often working slaves to death. They treated women abominably. And weren't they the original pedophiles? The same sexual molestation of children so roundly condemned today was enshrined in respectable Greek society. Are these among the injustices Diagoras was concerned with? Did he even recognize them as injustices? Possibly, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Lets face it, few situations of this system today are win-win. Generally someone pays the price when we win. Hopefully, for politicians and Pollyannas, it is someone we don’t see in another land or another class. But there is somebody most often and we usually don't even know about it. The system is designed that way. Get the sufferer as far away from the privileged one as possible so they don't see the link and declare any such talk mere bleeding heart liberal crying. Don't think, however, that any political party has a handle on the problem. It's inherent with human self-rule. A new system of things is in keeping with the Bible’s premise that human’s weren’t created to be independent of God.
Things might have turned out differently. The Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden account, brief as it is, demonstrates God’s original intent.
Further, God blessed them and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it. Gen 1:28
The very name Eden means pleasure; garden of Eden becomes (when translated into Greek, as in the Septuagint) paradise of pleasure, and “subduing the earth” is code for spreading those conditions earth wide. Had humans, starting with the first pair, remained content to live under God’s direction, life today would be a far cry from what it is today. But almost from the get-go, they balked.
Consider Genesis chapter 3:
Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?
2 At this the woman said to the serpent: “Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat.
3 But as for [eating] of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘you must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.’”
4 At this the serpent said to the woman: “you positively will not die.
5 For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”
6 Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.
Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the "knowing good and bad" of verse five to be a matter of declaring independence. "You don’t need God telling you what is good and what is bad. You can decide such things yourself and thus be “like God.” The serpent even portrays God as having selfish motive, as if trying to stifle the first couple….a sure way to engender discontent. The ploy was successful. Those first humans chose a course of independence, with far-ranging consequences that have only cascaded down to our day.
After a lengthy time interval allowed by God so that all can see the end course of a world run independent of him, he purposes to bring it again under his oversight. This is what Daniel refers to at Dan 2:44
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite...
Or Jesus in “the Lord’s Prayer:”
...Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth... Matt 6:10
Does anybody seriously expect God’s will to be done on earth under the present system? Yet, says the prayer, the time for God’s will to be done is when his Kingdom comes.
Jehovah’s Witnesses well understand that God’s permission of injustice, even evil, is bound up with this trial period of human rule, soon to end. In a sense, the modern-day atheist counterparts of Diagoras have voted for the wrong party. They voted Republicans out of office in favor of Democrats (or vice versa) and now they're incensed that Republicans aren't delivering on their promises! God’s Kingdom is the arrangement that will end injustice. But they continue to vote for human rule. Does anyone think humans will end injustice?
What the upset ones really want is, not so much an end of injustice, but an end to the symptoms of injustice, mostly the ones that affect them personally, just like with Diagoras. But human rule itself is the source of injustice. We’re simply not designed with the ability to “rule” ourselves. Is it “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?" God’s Kingdom will not treat the symptoms of injustice; it will uproot the source.